Facing Our Relationship Issues with Facebook and Other Social Media
I recently read an article on social media and in particular on Facebook. It was a really good read with examples of how people are dealing with using Facebook and how they relate it to friends and work life. You can tell by reading the article that people like social media, but that it can get to be obtrusive, and addictive and overwhelming. Some people, and this article highlighted it, have issues on how to use is with “friends” and who actually do you call a “friend”. You get a variety of opinions which is always good, but it really highlights the problems with “friending” and “unfriending” people.
There are all kinds of issues with social media. Yes it is a great tool for connecting, especially with family and friends around the world. I know for myself, I have friends and family on other continents and it has been a valuable means of connecting, everything from posting on the wall, sending a message, or using video for a video call. I know the value of being able to connect in a meaningful way, especially when face to face and physical interaction is not possible. But how do you manage it, and control the addicting elements of “status updates”, other than restricting those in your preferences. How do you manage having a “real time” life with “real people” and being “present in the moment” with those who are in your immediate space and daily interactions?
Issues I am Faced With
I went off Facebook completely three weeks ago. It has not been easy, namely for the aforementioned disconnect from friends and family I care about, who use social media more than email now in order to connect and follow the people that matter in their lives. I left for the reason that I was too bogged down following updates and posting my own, including responses to the updates of others. It was time consuming, and it was taking time away from the relationships that matter to me and the other things I needed to do in my life. In the last three weeks I have regained some measure of sanity and self-control.
I also am conscious of the health risks connected with social media as a whole. Society is seeing a rise the risks to mental health associated with the use of social media. These are real and tangible risks that will affect our long term health. The next time you engage in social media, your Facebook update, or post a tweet on Twitter, or check Instagram for a filter for your selfie, take a moment to ponder just what all that activity does to your brain as it processes the endless bits of information that it is taking in every moment.
- I discovered is the rather obvious, and that is that social media is addictive. Just try to wean yourself off for 1 day and see what it does to your routine and your constant need to check your mobile device, be it a phone or tablet. Just check in one day, your interactions with people, and see how you feel the need to “connect” through your device, all the while you are sitting in a bistro with your friend, not really engaged in the moment. There is a scale that measures addiction to Facebook, it is the Bergen Facebook Addiction scale. It is rather frightening. Studies show that 63% of Americans log on to Facebook daily, and that 40% log multiple times throughout the day! Stop and think about that! You can even take an online quiz to find out if you are a Facebook Addict.
- Social media adds to the constant need to compare ourselves. We have seen the articles and reports of online bullying, and much of that has been through social media like Facebook. We have seen how this has led to a reinforced negative self-image that has been compounded by persons who self-harm and even commit suicide. Our obsession with our looks, how we feel, and what we have or don’t have is quite literally killing us. It is difficult enough to effectively compete in school and work, in order to create our own breaks for success, but the obsession with comparisons and our self-imposed judgments for ‘not cutting it’ and the resulting issues to our well-being is not healthy. When we keep comparing ourselves we begin to demean ourselves and our worth and value. Researchers in the UK found in 2012 that 53% of people said that social media changed their behavior, of which 51% said it was negative due to the loss of self-confidence by the constant comparison to others.
- The increased awareness of “restlessness”. I discovered the irritation of being restless when I was off Facebook. I realized that when I did not have access to social media, I was fidgety and irritable because I was in that need to know mode, of the constancy of updates and of checking in to see what is going on. It became for me a scary discovery. I realized how much I was disrespecting the people I was with, when I needed to grab my iPad and check either Facebook or my NewsFeed app about the news of the day. I can well see how people can increase the risks of attention deficit disorder by being so restless.
- The potential increase in cyber-bullying. As I mentioned earlier, our self-image is impacted by how we are perceived when we interact with others. When you have access to mobile devices that have video and photo recording and Wifi for instant uploads, you are exposing yourself to others, and that exposure can lead to conflict as people engage with your posts and updates. Enough is Enough, an organization concerned with Internet safety, has found in a survey that 95% of teenagers engaged in social media have witnessed cyber-bullying, and 33% state they themselves have been victims of it.
- Social media glamorizes other forms of abuse such as alcohol and drug use. Teenagers appear to be more prone to drug and alcohol use when they are regular users of social media. A study revealed that 12 to 17 year olds who are daily users of social media are five times more likely to uses tobacco, and three times more likely to use alcohol, and twice as likely to use marijuana. An astounding 20% of the same age group where exposed to photos of people under the influence via social media, which suggests a correlation between these two factors. It appears that there is increased peer pressure when teenagers are exposed to this kind of behavior.
- Social media use can lead to a sense of unhappiness. A study from the University of Michigan found a correlation between the moods of avid Facebook users, and found that the more active the users of Facebook were, the greater the sense of unhappiness compared to those who did not frequent or use the site as much. The more avid users reported less satisfaction in their lives.
- Social media can lead to FOMO [fear of missing out]. I confess I fall into that category. I felt the pressure while on FB, to keep in the loop with multiple groups I was engaged with, and I wanted to constantly know what was happening, including special events, gatherings, and other happenings were taking place. I did not want to feel left out, even if I clicked the box “Not Attending”. Just to feel including removed my anxieties. So I totally get this one.
- Social media leads to excessive multitasking. Look at how you browse and how many tabs you have open, and it will reveal how distracted you actually are. We fool ourselves by saying that we are multitasking, but it is not to be more productive. Rather it is for being less focused and more distracted from actually having productive work. Research has shown that our brains do not have the capacity to fully focus our attention on two things at once. Multitasking causes our brains to quickly switch from one task to another, and this hinders the brain’s processing and productivity. When we reduce browser windows, or close our Twitter feed or FB tab, we might actually get some real, focused work done, and actually help our brains in the process.
- Social media enhances and promotes connectivity. To be fair, social media does not remove me from the nuts and bolts existence of being in the “real world”. I know for me it has fostered and enhanced real relationships that existed prior to social media, and in some cases, I met people on FB, and then met them face to face, and created a bond that exists and grows to this day. Being on social media allowed me to increase connections with multiple people and engage in church mission trips, as well as other social activities and events. It connected the online personas with the real flesh people face to face. So it has indeed enhanced connectivity. All that connectivity has been good for maintaining connections with actual real relationships and shared interests and activities and social action.
- Social media can help with socialization. It has been documented and presented by the APA (American Psychological Association – 119th Annual conference), that introverted adolescents can gain social skills by using social media. I have known adults who have needed the same “safety net” of being online on their iPad or smartphone, and interact with a computer screen, and being able to communicate and build meaningful connections with others by being online and using social media. I know for me personally, it has enhanced my socialization with groups of people within society and the culture that I would not normally be exposed to. It has provided the need “wall of separation” from actual face to face contact, by giving me an inside look at a social group that I have an interest in. It can complement and enhance the possibility of actually meeting others face to face and facility ease in interaction and connection.
The Excess of Being Addicted to Digital Connection and Disconnected from Real Life
There are other issues at risk here. The first article I mentioned, was talking about relating to how we engage with social media ourselves. To further explain this I can relate to two actual situations that I witnessed.
One was six years ago. My daughters were away at a wedding. My eldest was driving the car coming home from the wedding reception when they were struck by a driver that failed to yield in the intersection. What was striking was that my daughter called me on the phone and said they had been in an accident. My wife and I rushed to the scene, about five minutes from home. We arrived at the scene. The other party, a teen of about 18 was sitting on the curb with his Blackberry. The teen’s mom and dad were there as well, and both of them were on their own Blackberries.
The police were speaking with my daughter and taking her statement. I asked my daughter if she was OK, and if the other party had spoken to her. She just said they were there and using their own phones and had not spoken to her. It was when the father of the boy saw me with the police officer and my daughter, that he put his Blackberry away and came over to ask if my daughter was OK. I found that to be quite disturbing. The constant need to be wired, and disconnected from the real world, totally disrespecting the people that you are with, especially in the middle of an accident investigation. Even more disturbing, the dad then left when my daughter said she was fine, and he wasn’t ten feet away when he pulled out his Blackberry and started texting. I was so angry.
The other incident has been repeated several times, and I find this to be deplorable social behavior, which corresponds to the point addressed in the primary article I was referring to.
I went to one of the local malls last year, and went to the food court for a coffee at the local Tim Hortons. I got my coffee and made my way to the center aisle of the seating arrangements. I found myself between two large families. One family was constituted of six members and the other family had eight members. I kid you not. Every single person in each family had their own smart phone. From the youngest child, who had to be about eight years old, to the oldest adult who was in his mid fifties. I could not believe it. One family was all Blackberry, and the other was a mix of Android and iPhone. A perfect microcosm of the “digital life” in the home of Blackberry here in Waterloo.
They all went up and got their orders, and were chatting with each other, still connected to their devices and checking updates, and some were taking pictures and posting them, and when they got their orders they came back to their tables, and started to eat, and in between, they were still connected to their own devices, and no one spoke other than minimal words to each other as they ate at the food court. It was one of the most bizarre things I have ever encountered.
One of the kids, around eight or nine, called out to his mother. She gave a curt “What do you want!?” The kid knew not to bother her again, and resorted to texting her. The next thing I see, is the woman sees the text, turns her head and blurts out, “OK honey, we can do that after we eat, OK?” Then they both resumed their encounter with their digital device. I gave my head a shake, got up and took my coffee and went outside for some fresh air. I needed the cold winter breeze hitting my face after that encounter.
Both of these encounters illustrates how people are addicted:
- Addicted to being wired to all things digital, 24/7
- Addicted at every age, from the very young to the not so young.
- Addicted to social media and the need for constant feed of new information.
- Addicted to being around people but not engaged with the people they are with.
- Addicted to the touch of a keyboard rather than the human touch of actual contact.
- Addicted to the glow of the screen, rather than the glow of the eyes of the person in front of them.
There is such a disconnect with true physical social interaction, and we have forgotten what it is to speak face to face and actually relate to each other in meaningful conversation and engagement. People need to awaken to a real “social etiquette” for relationships, and we need to start in our homes and then in our schools and work places.
The first article I mentioned spoke of the issues of “unfriending” and how that affected people’s real life relationships.
I would venture we need social media and digital technology awareness and engagement on how to properly use the technology and how to moderate and control its use, before it controls us. The examples of those two illustrations, plus my own experience with Facebook and Twitter, illustrate how bad it can get and how it can affect our daily lives and our health. We need to wake up and need to take corrective action before it is too late.
We need to “unfriend” our addiction to social media, or at the very least bring in strict corrective action to mitigate and control our overuse with the technology.
NOTE: I returned to Facebook and Twitter as a means of promoting my blog by posting to both platforms, and also to make connections with people through the FB message app and a FB page for my blog. But I am keeping an eye on my use of it. I returned on 28 July, a month after leaving last June at this time. ~ Sam